At their core, nanny cameras and other types of covert video surveillance devices do a whole lot more than just record video of activity inside your home while you’re not around. They also provide you with the biggest benefit of all: the peace-of-mind that only comes with knowing your children are being looked after and protected at all costs. Whether you suspect that your nanny may be up to some questionable activity while you’re not around or you just want to take a proactive approach to your childcare situation, there are a few key things you should know.

The Ethics of Nanny Cameras

One of the most important questions that you have to answer before you use a nanny camera to watch your children’s babysitters ultimately comes down to whether or not you should use one at all. Nanny cameras and video surveillance, in general, are very much a hot button topic for debate in many areas.

First things first, as of 2016, video surveillance devices, used for the express purpose of watching someone you’ve hired to care for your child while you’re away(i.e., nanny cameras), are completely legal in all 50 states. This means that if you’re worried about legal trouble for possessing a nanny camera, using one or having one in your home that records footage without informing your caretaker ahead of time, you shouldn’t be.

However, this legal protection does come with some caveats. It is NOT legal to record your nanny in an area of your home that is clearly designated for private use. This means that if you install a nanny camera in your bathroom, or if you install one in some other place outside of the common areas of your home (like if your nanny lives with you and you install it in his or her bedroom), this is not legal.

Likewise, if you plan on using a nanny camera that also records audio, there are a few things you should know. In states like California, Delaware, New Hampshire, Florida, Maryland and a handful of others, you cannot record a person’s speech without first notifying them. This means that if you live in one of these states, you’ll either have to make the nanny aware that the camera is being used OR purchase a unit that does not record audio at the same time.

As far as the larger ethical question goes, consider the following. When you hire someone to look after your children’s safety while you’re away, they’re looking after the most precious thing of all in your life: the kids themselves. Also, they’re technically at work, even if they work in your home. If you walk into a retail store in your neighborhood, there is an assumption that you are being recorded as that store tries to cut down on theft and shoplifting. In the grand scheme of things, you should look at a nanny camera no differently.

How to Properly Hide and Place Your Nanny Camera

Once you HAVE made the decision to go ahead with a nanny camera, the next most important thing to concern yourself with is placement. If you’re not planning on telling your children’s caretaker about the camera ahead of time, it can be assumed that the unit is something you don’t want them to find out about. As a result, consider buying a camera that is actually built into the types of everyday items you are likely to find in your home. Small, state-of-the-art cameras these days come inside a wide range of items: from the types of USB adapters used to charge smartphones and tablets to desk clocks to picture frames and, yes, even the classic “camera hidden inside a teddy bear.”

Always place your camera in a context that makes sense. If your camera is hidden inside a desk clock, it wouldn’t make sense for that deck clock to be in your kitchen. The context would likely draw suspicion that you don’t want. Use a camera hidden inside an object that makes sense in the environment you plan on placing it in.

Finally, ALWAYS make sure that you’re aware of the limitations of whatever model you choose and take that into account during placement. If you know that your nanny camera only has a 90-degree viewing angle, place it somewhere where your subject will (at least in theory) be comfortably situated within those 90 degrees. Likewise, remember that height is very important. Some nanny cameras don’t do well with subjects that are too high or too low in the frame, so make sure that you’re aware of any limitations that you’re working with and take that into consideration when choosing the right location.